Crews At The Hills Illegally Cleared Land, Southampton Town Officials Say


Work crews were ordered to stop leveling ground for a small parking lot on The Hills property in East Quogue last week because the application for the project has not yet been approved by the Southampton Town Board and, therefore, no clearing or construction is allowed.

Any work on the mixed-use planned development district, whose application was deemed incomplete last month, is prohibited unless approved by the Town Board, according to the town’s planning and development administrator, Kyle Collins.

The plan will not be reviewed by the Town Board until missing information is provided by Discovery Land Company, the Arizona-based development firm charged with the project.

Last Wednesday, November 26, Mr. Collins said he went to the property at the end of Spinney Road after receiving multiple calls from residents about work crews clearing the area.

“There wasn’t any real clearing,” Mr. Collins said Monday. “They were prepping an area to put a trailer for security.”

However, Discovery Land did not seek permission from the town to clear the space, Mr. Collins said, which is not allowed.

The mixed-use PDD application for The Hills at Southampton calls for 118 homes and an 18-hole golf course on 168 acres, leaving an estimated 426 acres as open space. The town still needs additional information for its review of the application.

Last week, a small area that could fit about a dozen cars was leveled and brush and fallen branches were cleared from the area before Mr. Collins stopped the work. Three piles of dirt and rubbish from the area could be seen on the site Monday morning.

“They can’t do any other prep work on the site without Town Board approval,” Mr. Collins said, noting that there will be no consequences or fines for the work that was done last week.

Al Algieri, president of the East Quogue Civic Association, who opposes The Hills, said he received multiple calls and emails from residents wondering why there were trucks on the property clearing dirt.

“My objection is not what they did or how bad it is … it’s the fact that they’ve had a history from day one of changing their plan. They’ve changed it every time,” he said.

Mark Hissey, senior vice president of Discovery Land, said he is concerned about security on the property, particularly in that area, because there are many trails that run through the property.

“It was purely innocent,” he said at the site on Monday morning. “All we were doing was leveling off an area to put a trailer for the [security] guys to sit in while the weather was bad over the winter.”

Discovery Land recently contracted with Classic Security, a Hampton Bays-based firm, to monitor the site 24 hours per day, seven days a week.

“It’s a huge liability for us,” Mr. Hissey added. “We’ve got a big problem with security here. This was also the confluence of five trails.”

Timothy Fennelly, owner of Classic Security, pointed out that his team needed a small area in which to park cars because the end of Spinney Road is a tow-away zone where no parking is allowed at any time. He said that he and Mr. Hissey were concerned about the parking and winter weather and wanted to have a trailer to use as a base of operations for security employees.

For now, Mr. Fennelly said he and his team have been speaking with people they encounter on the property.

“We’re advising hunters, bikers, people on quads, that it’s private property now,” Mr. Fennelly said Monday morning. “Right now, we’re strictly here to keep people out.”

When Mr. Collins arrived last Wednesday, he stopped the work on the parking lot immediately. Mr. Hissey said he has since canceled the order for the trailer.

Mr. Hissey added said that he was more frustrated by the complaints from neighbors than the town stepping in.

“The naysayers immediately jumped all over this and accused me of doing something bad here,” he said, explaining that he did not think putting a trailer on the property would be an issue.

“They keep telling us they want to be good neighbors,” Mr. Algieri said, “but they haven’t proved anything but the opposite so far. This created quite a stir and frankly, it’s just strange.”

Discovery Land submitted a 76-page document outlining its development plan and a map of open space, but did not include a yield map for one of the parcels—a 101-acre plot known as the Parlato property, which sits about a half mile east of The Hills property that lies between Spinney and Lewis roads—that would be set aside as open space.

The firm must also create a yield map that shows where a road on the Kracke estate, a 62-acre property that would act as a buffer and alleviate traffic, would connect to The Hills property.

Additional information including the owners of neighboring parcels; more detailed appraisals of the 594 acres included with the application; fiscal and economic impacts; greater details on the value of the 19 community benefits listed; and a description of how appropriate the proposed use is for the community need to be submitted before the Town Board considers the final application.

The 108 single-family homes and 10 condos will be purchased as second and third homes, and the golf course will be open only seasonally. Mr. Hissey previously estimated that each tenant will spend about 60 days each year on the property.

Residents, however, have expressed concerns about the environmental impacts of septic systems and building on one of the largest remaining undeveloped tracts of land on the East End.

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